How to find who the Executor of a Will is


This is in relation to a property that has been empty for a number of years following the death of the owner. 

I am pretty new to the area of Empty Properties and wondered if anybody could help me in finding out if there is more than one the Executor of the Will ( and their contact details).

Probate has not been granted. I only know the deceased person's name, address and date of death. I have been informed by another department that the 'Executor' has been in contact and is applying for Probate, but this has been ongoing for a number of years. I will be asking that department to forward a letter on to the Executor for me but I am interested in knowing if there was more than one Executor named in the Will so that I could contact them as well.

I have considered the National Will Register but it seems I need the deceased's date of birth and death certificate.

Any help/suggestions gratefully received.

miscellaneous issues

Hi Dina,

If probate hasnt been granted and its been a few years. I usually obtain a copy of the death certificate to find out who the informant was. Its usually the same person as the 'executor'.

If the information is held by Council Tax, they can also share that information with you.

Good luck! Deceased estates are difficult but extremely rewarding when unravelled.

Claire Storey

Empty Homes Officer

I echo Claire's words on the satisfaction that is felt in doing the searching yourself.

I usually start with the 'advanced search' function on the Probate Register as this allows you to obtain the initial information on whether a grant of probate or letters of administartion have been obtained. Surname and year of death are often sufficient but sometimes you will need a first and middle name to get the confirmation you desire.

If probate has been granted then it only costs a small amount to get a copy of the Grant of Probate and a copy of the will as required.

If Probate has not been granted then you may need to try elsewhere such as the Heir Hunters above. I usually ask for the name and contact details of a person now responsible for the estate and get the Heir Hunter to undertake to make no contact with the person themsleves whilst I deal with the empty.

If you need to confirm the deceased's official name before you search the Probate Register then HM Land registry can supply that for you. The registered owner of the property may not be the same as that shown in Council tax records.

You'll need an account at HM Land Registry and have to pay £3 per full search

Be sure to always use the website ending in "" as there are a number of re-packagers where the fees are higher.

I've been dabbling with 'wildcard' searches of the Probate Register with pleasing results.

It's obviously more difficult if your deceased turns out to be called John Smith though.



Many thanks for all of the replies so far. Really helpful and I'll be following up on those suggestions.

Hi. Would anyone be able to advise me please whether or not there are any GDPR implications arising from using Heir Hunters? Our Information Governance section has advised that passing onto heir hunters details of individuals we are looking to trace (including deceased people) breaches GDPR. As it is clear from posts on here that many Local Authorities don't share this view, I would be grateful if anyone could share any insight on the matter that I can then use to refer back to colleagues in Information Governance. Thanks in advance.

Hello Jeremy

Information Governance are right to be concerned about GDPR. However, GDPR is not unduly onerous to comply with and we have GDPR compliant arrrangements with a number of your contemporaries signed off on by their respective IG colleagues, together with the necessary DPIAs. Very happy to put you in touch with EHOs at other Authorities if you'd like to hear it at first hand. By the way in the ordinary run of things, GDPR does not apply to the deceased.

I hope this helps for now.

Best wishes.

Hi Jeremy,

Official government guidelines state that such matters should be referred to the Bona Vacantia Division (BVD) of the Government Legal Department as soon as possible after the death. They will then advertise for next-of-kin within 5 working days. As Francis states above, be careful to ensure the website ends in .gov so you know that you’re corresponding with the correct body.

This approach also negates any uncertainty around GDPR where a duty, or expectation, of confidence can continue after death. Whilst there are sometimes clear moral and ethical obligations to trace relatives, there is no legal or statutory requirement for local authorities to locate next-of-kin.  

In the event that a referral cannot be made to the BVD, such as if there are known relatives who just cannot be traced or if it has been confirmed there is a valid Will, then we would recommend the details are passed simultaneously to more than one firm of accredited genealogists.

Some heir hunters offer free services to local authorities; however, their services are certainly not free to the next-of-kin who they then locate. If given details on an exclusive basis, it means that heir hunters can charge next-of-kin fees that are well above the market rate. This is one of the reasons why so much effort goes into their marketing and outreach to councils.

Having details on an exclusive basis also means that an heir hunter’s research is not subject to peer scrutiny and mistakes can, and do, happen. In the past this has resulted in completely unentitled persons receiving the deceased’s estate.

The measures recommended above, which we are increasingly being adopted by councils, ensure that any relatives are identified quickly and are also protected from being charged excessive fees. It also provides protection for local authorities who avoid an audit and bribery risk together with accusations of bad practice from aggrieved relatives.

Kind regards,

Anglia Research Services Ltd

Thanks very much for the advice. The two cases I'm dealing with are slightly different, in that the property owner died over 10 years ago, and in both cases, we have identified sons who are refusing to apply for probate. We were looking to use heir hunters to identify whether or not there are other relatives who could be next of kin and who might be entitled to apply for probate. We may be clutching at straws, but at the very least, it would confirm that we are dealing with the appropriate person in each case.  

Hi Jeremy,

We are the largest firm of heirs hunters in the UK and  this situation is where we stand out as we have over 120 personnell, 40+ of whm are retired police officers stationed regionally all over the UK and Ireland. We often connect with people who otherwise may not engage with a council directly for fear of what the repercussions may be of other difficulties in their familes.

We have independently confirmed with Counsel's advice that you are 100% within your rights to utilse heir hunters. The services we offer are free to Local Authorities. Please contact for more information (former empty homes office). Best wishes.

Dear Dina,


We regularly advise in such cases and there may be several options available to you:


  • Firstly, it may be sensible do a comprehensive Will search to check for any later Wills in case there is anyone else entitled in priority to administer the estate. A Certainty REACH search is usually a good place to start.
  • I appreciate you have already checked the current online probate records, but you may wish to enter a standing search at the Probate Registry so you will be automatically sent a copy of the grant and will when it is issues.
  • If the council are a creditor of the estate, such as for unpaid council tax, then you could consider issuing a citation to force the executors to act.
  • If no grant of probate has yet been obtained, any interested party, such as the council, could make an application for the executors to be passed over under Section 116 of the SCA 1981.
  • Seek the removal of the executors under Section 50 of the Administration of Justice Act 1985. 
  • If there are issues locating those entitled to administer the estate, then it may be possible to apply for a limited Grant of administration (as a short-term solution) to preserve and protect the assets of the estate and in particular the deceased’s property. In some cases, the limited Grant can include provision for the property to be sold.
  • Those entitled to administer the estate could appoint someone to take out the Grant on their behalf via a power of attorney or renounce their entitlement if they don’t want to be involved with the estate administration.


We would be happy to assist and advise further if you wish to contact us

Empty Homes Department

Taylor & Emmet LLP